OVER 100 years of Wonthaggi’s history almost went up in smoke after a kitchen fire broke out at the Whalebone Hotel last week.
The fire started in the grill of the bistro kitchen at the Wonthaggi Hotel shortly before 2.30pm on Wednesday afternoon.
Owner Brad Titulaer and a staff member heard a loud noise and went into the kitchen to discover the smoke.
They quickly extinguished the fire and after Brad sighed a breath of relief, he exited the kitchen to where a passer-by told him the roof was on fire with smoke billowing out.
Brad quickly dialled 000 to which local CFA crews arrived within minutes.
The roof wasn’t on fire – the fire had made its way into a void between the two levels of the hotel and was smouldering away, with the smoke escaping through the roof.
Police and CFA blocked off part of McBride Avenue and Murray Street to prevent vehicles from passing through the scene. Two ambulance vehicles arrived but neither were required.
But live power created a high level of risk for firefighters, and before long Ausnet crews arrived to disconnect the electricity.
“The safety of everyone was our first priority,” said owner Paradee Titulaer.
It allowed firies to go in and stick a hose in the void to extinguish the fire.
Meanwhile, a CFA cherry picker was en-route from Dandenong so firefighters could check for fire in the roof – luckily it was all clear.
The building’s structurally fine and both the bar and drive-thru bottleshop have since re-opened, but the bistro will take longer.
“The bistro will be closed for a while, we don’t have any timeframes yet, but we want to be back up and running as soon as possible.”
The smoke and water damage have created a big clean-up bill for the owners.
But they’re incredibly grateful for the support from firefighters and other emergency services.
“All of them – the firefighters and others – they’re all absolute troopers,” Paradee said.
“It could’ve been worse,” said Paradee, while inspecting the damage on Thursday.
As she walked through the building on Thursday, investigators were taking photos and scribbling notes to report back to the insurance company.
“Yesterday was just so full of emotion,” she said.
“Everyone’s come to see the damage and wants to know what happened.
“The number of people surrounding the building while the CFA were here was phenomenal. There was probably around 30 firefighters and then all these people watching it.”
In the meantime, Paradee encourages patrons to check out The Cally – also run by the Titulaer’s, who’ve recently spent a huge amount of time renovating both pubs.
“The Whalebone means a lot to people. It’s their pub,” she said.
“We’re still getting people calling to try and book for dinners.”
Whalebone will live to fight another day